Defeating the Homers, Haters and Boomers

Defeating the Homers, Haters and Boomers

August 23, 2010 Opinion, Our Policy Voice

A friend of ours in DC describes the opposition to the proposed NASA budget as the “homers, haters and boomers.”  The homers want as much federal spending as possible in their home state or district.  The haters reflexively oppose anything at all that comes out of an Administration they despise.  The boomers are nostalgic for the 60s and want to recreate the imagined glories of Apollo.  Some of our most vigorous opponents affiliate with two, or even three of these disjointed fellowships (as do many on the other side.)

But the real enemy of progress in civil space is a dramatically more insidious opponent that infects the body politic, an adversary so sinister and commonplace that we have come to take it for granted, the corrosive background noise of democracy.  Our real enemy is apathy.

There are probably no more than a dozen members of Congress who care one wit about space.  At least 90 of the 100 Senators who unanimously consented to the proposed NASA authorization bill knew essentially nothing about what they were consenting to.  An even worse version of an already awful bill would have coasted through the House if it hadn’t run into a bit of opposition from a group of “homers” “standing up for” their own home state interests.

The “general public” isn’t any different.  The sky is a nice place to look at on a warm summer night.  The future is a nice place to dream about when more compelling needs are satisfied.  But we all know that most people are content to be observers, watching the world go by and only acting to make sure their personal needs, wants and desires are fulfilled.

I am not bemoaning these facts, merely reminding you that they are indeed facts.  Decades spent convincing people that the nearly unlimited resources of the Solar System can both protect Earth’s fragile biosphere and create a freer and more prosperous life for future generations has taught me that the overwhelming majority of people who can be convinced will never do anything to help make it become reality.

This doesn’t mean that we should give up.  Quite the opposite.  It means that the impact of those few who are willing to act to change the world is dramatically greater than our numbers would imply.  Members and fans who do little more than subscribe to a magazine or click on the button of a mouse can easily be overwhelmed by small groups of dedicated people with a clear vision and a willingness to act.

If you are one of the elect few willing to act, you should pick up the phone today and call your Congressperson to say that they should vote against whichever version of the NASA authorization bill comes up for a vote.  Even better, if you are willing to give of your time and/or money on an ongoing basis to open the space frontier to everybody you should send me ( or Will Watson ( a note and tell us about your interests and skills.  As Margaret Mead is supposed to have said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”


  • @KeithCowing says:

    Parsing things as you have is flawed. I am a "boomer" and feel that we need to abandon the Apollo paradigm and embrace a truly 21st century approach – one that seeks to go vastly beyond NASA and involve citizenry and the private sector in prominent, preferably preeminent positions. I know of many others in my population cohort who are similarly inclined. Indeed the most vocal supporters of this shift are boomers. But you seem to be oblivious to that. So long as you push people into artificial categories of your making you will do little to advance things. Instead you are just using semantics to pit one group against another over false boundaries – and turn off potential allies to your cause (whatever it is). FAIL.

  • Nelson Bridwell says:

    Moments like this happen to all of us.

    My constructive recommendation is to continue to advoate for what you truely believe, and at the same time try to build trust and undestanding with everyone in the space community. When you are starting out at the bottom of a cliff, it is often better not to not start throwing rocks at those who live at the top.

  • Bob Werb says:

    I thought that context makes it clear that not all members of any of the three categories are opposed to the proposed Nasa budget. I mention that it was “homers” opposed to the House version of the bill who prevented it from coasting through; we all know plenty of “haters” who are enthusiastic supporters of NewSpace; and I am myself a graying boomer.

    Whatever you call them, these three categories capture the stated motivation of the vast majority of those pushing these awful authorization bills.

    And I am not throwing rocks, rhetorical or otherwise, from the bottom of the cliff or the top. I seek to motivate action. Did you call your Congressperson today?

  • @KeithCowing says:

    "You thought" it was clear. Guess not.

    • Bob Werb says:

      …which is why I added "(as do many on the other side.)" BTW, thanks for calling me out on this. Clarity is hard.

  • For a piece on defeating the oh-so-contemptible opposition, it's strikingly short on…well…an actual plan. "Calling your Congressman" isn't a plan, it's a slightly less entertaining take on drunk dialing Washington Journal. It's a failure to deal with the actual terrain in DC and out in whatever passes for commercial space these days. And ultimately an abrogation of responsibility from those in a position to pitch to real stakeholders.

    Be honest about the opposition you face. If you live in Utah, ATK has at least 2,000 more reasons than you do to push for an architecture that probably won't ever see space. There are 49 other states with their hands in the supply chain. If you aim to do something that'll upset the apple cart, you better have a credible, juicier alternative ready to go. FY2011 certainly wasn't it.

  • Karl Hallowell says:

    But the real enemy of progress in civil space is a dramatically more insidious opponent that infects the body politic, an adversary so sinister and commonplace that we have come to take it for granted, the corrosive background noise of democracy. Our real enemy is apathy.

    What's the cure to apathy about space? Making money in space. No matter how many congresspeople you write, apathy (and resulting defunding of the more practical parts of NASA) will win as long as there's little relevant economic activity up there to help improve life on Earth (or from the Congressional point of view to tax and regulate). Most people will still continue to not care about space, just as they don't care about fast food or automobile manufacture (except when they buy the relevant products). But these activities will be self-funded and hence, immune to apathy of the public.

    • Gundam Jesus says:

      Business is already making money in space. What's frustrating to the space settlement tribe is that business isn't all that keen on tossing much more than a hundred or so tons a year into orbit, and where she is keen she's focusing on cutting the launch price tag. NewSpace may halve my DirecTV bill (if Dish gets her act together), but it remains to be seen she'll create enough demand to open up new industry in space.

      If anyone had any confidence that private concerns would open access to space any time soon, we wouldn't even be talking about FY2011. We'd be railing about the unfair advantage extended by NASA funding commercial space in the first place.